Formulating Comprehensive Policy on Mental Health

Speech of the Hon KP Chan on Motion on Formulating Comprehensive Policy on Mental Health (Synopsis)

•    The definition of mental health is evolving.  In the last Century, one was considered as mentally healthy so long as one did not have symptoms of mental illness.  In recent years, people realize that mental health is more than absence of symptoms and closely related to mental wellness.  Indicators of good mental health now includes having satisfaction of life, sense of  purpose, room of self-development,  environmental mastery, self-acceptance,  autonomy and positive interpersonal relationship.  The new definition is redefining public policy on mental health.

•    Studies show that mental health is inseparable from physical health and social state.  When one has good mental health, one’s physical and nerve systems would receive additional protection, having very positive impacts on body health.  Therefore, government investment in mental health of the people does pay.  When mental health and total health of the people improve, overall medical expenses would be less stressful.  Return on investment in mental health is more than mental healthiness itself.

•     Not many people are suffering from serious mental illness.  Most patients are not serious or even light.  That said all of them needs professional care.  In Hong Kong, people are facing considerable stress in daily life.  Many people have mental problems because they could not relieve stress in work or they are too insistent in wealth and romance.

•    How do minor psychiatric problems turn into serious mental illness?  One does not acquire radical thinking overnight.  On the contrary, one must be suffering from psychological instability for a prolonged period.  As mental health deteriorates over time to a critical state, it would lead mental illness in diagnosis.

•    Thus, the Government should not only ensure that more serious mental patients are taken care of but also pay attention to mental wellness of the public at large as a policy.  The Government should find out how to improve mental health of the people with a view to preventing psychiatric problems from becoming mental illness, healthiness from becoming sickness, and minor illness from becoming serious illness.

•    Current policy on mental health focuses more on those who have suffered or are suffering from serious mental illness.  It overlooks the promotion of mental health of the people of Hong Kong as a policy and improvement of the state of health.

•    On the subject of public mental health, mental disorder arising from internet addiction is the latest cause for concern.  According to a study of Institute of Mental Health of Peking University, some 15 percent of internet users in the Mainland are addicts.  In Washington, DC, there are facilities like drug rehabilitation centers to provide therapy for addictive behaviors.  It costs $100,000 for a course of 45 days.  Internet addiction is a global problem and Hong Kong is not immune.  We must do our best to upkeep the mental wellness of our young people and prevent addiction in the internet.  For instance, the Government has offered financial assistance to underprivileged students for Internet learning.  Have we ever tried to assure that the computer is really used for learning?  If most parents of these students are working couples, how do we assure the proper use of the Internet in the absence of parental guidance?  The authority should properly assess policy impacts on mental health of the young people with care.

•    Allocations on mental health in Hong Kong are still much less than other countries in terms of GDP.  There are some 160,000 patients in psychiatric wards in public hospitals but less than 40,000 are given new medication.  The authority should conduct a comprehensive study and review on this matter.  If new medication is proven to be superior, it should not be given only to one-quarter of the patients.

•    Last year, out of 100,000 people 14 committed suicide.  The suicidal rate is much higher than the UK, the US and even France.  The Government is indecisive on a study on suicide with charcoal.  There is room for improvement in prevention of suicide.  For instance, death from suicide in inpatient rose from 10 cases in 2009 to 20 cases in 2010.  The authority has set up a crisis unit to monitor high-risked mental patients.  In fact, mentally instable patients in normal hospitals would also need intervention and assistance.

•    Today, psychiatric problems are common in society.  The Government needs new thinking to help those who have suffered from mental illness.  Policy focus should also be modified following the redefinition of mental health.   It should target at optimizing the mental wellness of the public and improving their ability to face adversity.  With healthy minds, people would succeed in family, community and career.

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